When Jack Frost comes nipping at your nose, it’s time to go sipping. A mug of hot chocolate should do the trick. If your kids love cacao — or need a good introduction to it — check out these local restaurants or cafes that make their own from scratch. Flip through our photo album for our favorites.
Katherine Anne Confections
When this local confectioner isn’t busy making mouthwatering truffles and caramels, it's drawing people with delicious hot chocolate in flavors like bittersweet, semisweet or salted caramel topped with homemade ‘mallows. The secret? Steamed whole milk and a cream-top cream that has 45% butterfat.
2475 W. Armitage Ave., Bucktown (773-245-1630 or katherine-anne.com)
Mindy's Hot Chocolate
True to its name, this Bucktown favorite has a sweet spot for the roasty-toasty drink. Of the nine hot chocolate choices, the biggest kid pleaser is the “Medium.” Concocted from milk chocolate, dark chocolate, a hint of caramel, and a combo of heavy cream and whole milk, it will have them licking their lips -- especially when they lay eyes on the house-made marshmallow on top.
1747 N. Damen Ave., Bucktown (773-489-1747 or hotchocolatechicago.com)
Oh, yes, it offers more than donuts. The next time you head here for a chocolate hazelnut long john, double the decadence with Chef Jonathan Fox's frothed-to-order, Parisian-style hot chocolate. It balances Belgian bittersweet chocolate with organic milk, a touch of vanilla and cane sugar, and is topped with a house-made, Tahitian vanilla bean marshmallow.
68 W. Hubbard St., River North (312-329-6500 or firecakesdonuts.com)
It was named one of the five best cups of hot chocolate in NYC by CBS New York. No need to travel to get your own cup, order the cioccolata con panna at their Lavazza café, which is rich, dark, and sweet. It's a perfect place to take a pause from holiday shopping or while your table is being set in the restaurants upstairs.
43 E. Ohio St., Loop (312-521-8700 or eataly.com)
Little Branch Cafe
Before or after a trip to The Field Museum, head to this neighborhood cafe for a warm-up. It serves creative American favorites for breakfast, lunch or dinner, and is great brunch alternative to nearby Yolk, which always has a longer wait. No matter the time of day, you can't go wrong with hot chocolate made from a tasty combo of vanilla syrup, Ghirardelli chocolate powder and milk, topped with whipped cream and cocoa powder.
1251 S. Prairie Ave., Prairie Avenue Historic District (312-360-0101 or littlebranchcafe.com.
Ghiradelli Chocolate Co.
The San Francisco-based icon is known for its chocolate bars. It also knows a thing or two about the drinkable version. Stop by its Mag Mile location for chocolate mocha, double chocolate or chocolate caramel hot cocoa. While you're on a roll, pick up the mixes to take home -- and don't forget chocolate and caramel sauces.
830 N. Michigan Ave., Downtown (312-337-9330 or ghirardelli.com)
What's better than hot chocolate? S’mores hot chocolate. This campfire-inspired treat is made from organic omanhene chocolate, vanilla syrup, whole milk and topped with graham cracker crumbs. It’s served in a soup bowl for great slurp-ability. Chances are, you're already familiar with this restaurant, known for its organic food and neighborhood charm (the Lakeview location has been around for 20 years). The hot chocolate is a new reason to try it.
3800 N. Clark St., Lakeview (773-929-3680) & 1401 W. Devon Ave., Edgewater (773-465-9801); uncommonground.com
While its name is the Mexican slang for "little sister," chef Rick Bayless’ restaurant is a big shot in the hot chocolate scene. The Mexican hot chocolate is made from cacao imported from Tabasco, which is put through a grinding process more meticulous than the judges on Top Chef Masters. One sip and your whole family will be crying olé!
449 N. Clark St., River North; rickbayless.com
Julius Meinl Cafe
Sipping hot chocolate at the Euro-inspired cafe is a special experience. When you dine in, drinks are served on silver platters with glasses of water on the side. The smooth, rich flavor of the hot chocolate is also worth talking about. It's made from steamed milk and milk chocolate powder shipped from Austria. Ask for it topped with whipped cream and homemade marshmallows.
4363 N. Lincoln Ave., Lincoln Square (773-868-1876) & 3601 N. Southport Ave. (773-868-1857); meinlus.com
Le Chocolat du Bouchard
Get ready for sugar bliss. This Naperville cafe serves toasted marshmallow hot chocolate that's almost like a meal in a glass. It's made from a decadent chocolate powder, marshmallow cream and toasted marshmallow syrup. The whole thing is topped by a toasted marshmallow and dusted with cocoa powder. Note to parents: We recommend drinking this one way before bedtime.
127-129 S. Washington St., Naperville, (630-355-5720 or https://www.lechocolatdubouchard.com/)
What is your favorite place to order hot chocolate? Let us know in the Comments section below.
— Maria Chambers & Anli Chen
xCover photo: Courtesy of Katherine Anne Confections